Nissan takes cue from knights, dons shield for future designs

Ariya Concept shows how the new era of EVs will be a renaissance for technology and design

The fundamentals of the automobile have been largely unchanged for over a century. With the coming mass adoption of electric vehicles, new opportunities are opening up to reinvent the ways we construct and shape cars and integrate them into our lives.

The EV revolution is also changing the vernacular of the automotive industry. Nissan did just that when the Ariya Concept rolled onto the stage at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, with its simple-yet-powerfully modern aesthetic called Timeless Japanese Futurism, featuring a “shield” front element.

The Nissan Ariya Concept is the first example of an entirely new design direction for the company. It features a spacious, premium cabin with advanced technology and a body that conveys the pure, clean nature of electric cars, which don’t need a traditional open grille to let air cool an engine. As a result, designers were able to experiment with the concept’s signature V-motion design, creating the “shield.”

Traditional hand-held shields used in battle merged function and design, utilizing strong materials with intricate designs meant to communicate prestige and strength. The shield on the Ariya Concept shares the same statement, offering much more than an aesthetic placeholder for a grille. The final look and application is not only striking, it also allows the advanced technology behind it to work through the design elements without interference.

“By replacing the conventional grille with the tech shield – with innovative 3-D texture within that goes beyond aesthetics – we wanted a way to highlight the technology within the vehicle, just behind the surfaces,” said Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of global design at Nissan. “In this case, its advanced technology that helps the Ariya Concept read the road and visualize things the driver can’t see making what is invisible, visible.”

Merging advanced technology with timeless Japanese design

The Ariya Concept is the ultimate expression of design freedom. The concept’s 100% electric vehicle platform allowed for new approaches to existing components, removing fundamental limitations.

Traditional grilles on an internal combustion vehicle have taken all shapes and forms since their inception, but have needed to maintain a level of cooling for the vehicle’s engine cooling system and be strong enough to deflect the occasional rogue rock in flight. These functional aspects have limited their design, look and feel.

Since the Ariya Concept has no engine, a grille in the traditional sense is unnecessary. Designers decided to repurpose this space to add a new type of frontal fascia. The shield is constructed as a single piece with a geometric traditional Japanese pattern composed within for a new EV expression while hinting at Nissan’s J-DNA.

“The surface has no gaps,” explained Program Design Director Giovanny Arroba. “It’s smooth like a sheet of silent water, with the kumiko pattern sitting just underneath the surface.”

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SOURCE: Nissan